Labor is deeply concerned at a CommsDay report out of Barcelona today about the lack of Australian official attendance at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

A strong showing of other world leaders at this influential global forum has prompted the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association CEO, Chris Althaus, to lament the “minimalist” representation of the Australian Government at a time when 5G is just over the horizon, and to warn that “opportunities … may be lost because our officials aren’t participating in this level of forum”.

AMTA CEO: “[A]t this event, we see world leaders … coming together to lay out vision, to explore strategy, to articulate the opportunities and challenges that are going in this case with 5G. And the Australian government isn’t here”.                     

The world is on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, and 5G mobile will underpin the transformation of all sectors of our economy and society.

However, in its fifth year in office, this Liberal Government doesn’t have a 5G Strategy or a Communications Policy Roadmap.

The Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, confirmed as much under questioning by Labor Senator Urquhart at Senate Estimates this week:

Senator URQUHART:  Do you think that it is rather late in the day for the government now, in its fifth year of office, to be failing to produce a road map for the communications sector?

Senator Fifield: Senator, we have a lot of work in train in the portfolio. … I do appreciate that there are stakeholders who value having a strategy document in the form of a road map, so that is something that we're also working on.

Senator URQUHART: A 5G strategy?

Senator Fifield: We've announced the 5G Working Group to bring together business and regulators and a range of government portfolios to ensure that any regulatory impediments to the rollout of 5G are addressed.

Only after Labor called out the lack of a 5G strategy at the CommsDay Melbourne Congress last year, did the Turnbull Government announce a 5G Working Group and release a 12 page 5G Directions Paper.

To date, the 5G Working Group has met only once and plans to meet “at least twice each year”.

Under questioning by Labor Senator Chisholm at Senate Estimates this week it was confirmed the 5G Working Group has no deliverables and no plans to release information about its meetings.

Australia is recognised as a world leader in spectrum planning and management, is one of the leading nations in terms of mobile and is a real contender in the global race to deploy 5G.

But Australia cannot afford to rest on its laurels and should have been out in force at Barcelona this year – along with the World Bank Chairman, FCC Chairman, European Commission Vice-President and ITU Secretary-General, to name a few.

It is notable that, while the Acting Deputy Chairman of the ACMA attended, the Turnbull Government has, for over two years, neglected to make permanent the Deputy Chair appointment at the ACMA.

Australia became a broadband backwater under the Howard Government and cannot afford the ongoing neglect of the Turnbull Government on 5G as other world leaders engage to create a better future.